Saturday, November 19, 2005


I love Shabbos. I try to be as shomer Shabbos (lit. guard the Sabbath) as possible. I still drive to synagogue and a few other things; since I haven't converted (as I'm already married to a non-Jew who isn't interested in also converting, rabbis won't create an intermarriage), I do need to break Shabbos still (someday.......things may be different).

Being shomer Shabbos includes not doing any creative work (melocho in Hebrew). Often, the categories are defined as those activities used to build the Mishkan -- overall, melocho changes the essential being-ness of something, which is why extinguishing and erasing join kindling and writing on the list of 39 melochos, even though they don't seem initially like creative work.

Since there is no longer a standing temple, the categories of work that built the Mishkan in the desert now define a sacred time for us, instead of a sacred place. So it is one day a week where we deal with people on a very human level -- in person -- and focus on our relationships with each other and with HaShem (and on eating, but that's another story........).

With my crazy life, it is very nice to have a day (sunset Friday to sunset Saturday) with no phone, no email, no t.v., no radio (except in car to/from shul to stay awake while driving -- and I'm very selective with what I listen to).

Another way I've been looking at melocho recently is that Shabbos is a once-a-week restraint from trying to influence our environment. We modern urban dwellers live in climate-controlled constructed houses, drive on paved superhighways, get our food at megamarkets, and so on. But on Shabbos we pull back from all of that and deal with life on a smaller scale (within the distance we can walk) and on a much larger scale (HaShem's). Just needing to know when sunset is for the start and end of Shabbos draws us closer to the natural world ;-)

I've been a one day a week rest person for more than a decade now, but I've only been seventh day (Saturday) shomer Shabbos for a couple years now; before that it was a Christian Lord's Day. In some ways, Shabbos is harder (more obvious don'ts; a minority day) but in other ways it is much easier: the 'rules' are more consistent, and I find it much more relaxing and refreshing. (Of course, the fact that I am now comfortable with the theology being spoken and don't have all the issues I had with Christian theology helps.......)

Side note: The transition from a Sunday Lord's Day to a Saturday Shabbos did take some work. Extricating myself from Saturday activities {especially those I'd committed to in my 'previous' life} wasn't easy, and I'm still often torn about garage sales and meetings for professional/other organizations that are scheduled on Saturdays. But I either find a way to do something {thrift stores fill the garage sale niche}, or realize that I've made a choice and I'm going to stick with it. But I will admit to surprise at how busy stores are on Sunday; I guess I'd forgotten how few Christians/gentiles still view Sunday as a day different from the rest of the week.

Not surprisingly, one of my favorite parts of Shabbos is attending services. I usually go to a Carlebachian minyan, with lots of (loud) singing. [My dad went with me last winter a couple times - he liked the music -- but he was surprised I liked it, as I've never been one comfortable around loud noise and big crowds. But what I get from it is worth the noise and crowding!] One friend who went with me once on Shabbos morning commented that I'd found the Jewish Pentecostals, which I suppose is somewhat true, in terms of both the style and emphasis at this minyan. And Friday evening services are even more so than Saturday morning.......

This week, the rabbi made an interesting comment: that the Hebrew root for test (as in Avraham's 10 trials) is the same as the root for lift up; that HaShem lets us have difficulties/problems/trials to lift us closer to Him. (OK, I'm doing this from memory, since I don't write on Shabbos; I may have missed a detail or so but I know I got the basic premise!)

Another idea occured to me today as I was reading the parsha (weekly Torah portion): Avraham developed great strength through his trials -- not only enough for him to continue the tasks he needed to do with his life, abut enough for thousands/millions of people to draw strenght from his example. Even though I don't have children, I can't imagine being willing to sacrifice a child -- especially one on whom all my hopes rested! But to know so clearly what HaShem would have us do with our lives, and then doing it -- that I can relate to as a desire.

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